Outside The Known Territory: Meditation for innovators and engineers

-  an introduction to Pause by John Tarrant

We’re all on a journey and no one knows how it will turn out. We just have our part of the story that began before us and continues after us. That’s comforting, exciting and might be alarming. Humans have been setting out on journeys for a long time, out of Africa with our dogs, across straits in canoes, from the now into the future.


We like known paths and we try to predict how the journey will turn out. But really we are always heading off into the unknown. Weirdness always appears. We won’t know how the road we didn't take would have turned out. But we can rely on what we don't know and side with the surprises that are always appearing. That can be a happy thing. Siding with uncertainty is siding with reality.

(continues below)


Thursday after dinner:  Kickoff meeting. Introduction to the program, short meditation session and discussion: meditation how to and how not to try.


Each Morning at 6:30: Optional meditation ending with a walking meditation half an hour before breakfast. There is five minute break every 25 minutes and you can come and go during any break =) We'll provide cushions or chairs for the seated portion. Come for one 25min session; try two the next day.


Breakfast at 8am: Trying to stay silent till after breakfast. Giving people a chance to taste and enjoy their own minds. And for many of us, a silent group meal is another new thing to try.


Each Evening 8pm: Short meditation session, talk and discussion. You may want to bring something to write on and with.

Zen meditation relies on uncertainty. It approaches difficult or apparently impossible tasks. We use questions and little transformation stories called koans. You don't have to believe them, you just spend time with them.


Not knowing is most intimate is an example of a koan.

You can just hang out with that saying. 

Here’s another koan.

What is your original face before your parents were born?

You don't have to work it out; working it out is knowing. Your mind empties by itself. 

Here’s another koan about the journey:

Step by step in the dark,

If my foot’s not wet,

I found the stone.


Here are few rules of thumb:


1. Mostly we learn by adding things. In meditation, you can just throw stuff overboard.

2. You don't have to know how to do this. Uncertainty is on your side. You can just take step; it’s always going to be a step into the unknown.

3. Skepticism and curiosity are helpful; believing things is not. 

4. In meditation, it’s good not to judge, assess, or critique how you are doing. If you do judge yourself don’t judge yourself for that. Those judgments are all just thoughts.

5. If you don’t oppose yourself, your mind will calm itself. Trying to calm your mind is agitating your mind.

5. You are not your thoughts and don’t need to defend them.

6. There might not be a problem or a mistake.

7. Meditation is just showing up for your own life without arguing about it. Everything in your life is allowed to show up. You are not living the wrong life.

8. A koan is somewhere else to look when you need a new approach.

John Tarrant

John Tarrant directs Pacific Zen Institute devoted to meditation and the arts. He wrote Bring me the Rhinoceros & Other Zen Koans that will Save Your Life and The Light Inside the Dark: Zen, Soul & The Spiritual Life and, online, The Zenosaurus Course In Koans  John is a Zen Roshi who developed new ways to teach people with no experience of Zen or even of meditation. He has a PhD in Psychology and has taught integrative medicine & leadership at The University of Arizona at Tucson and at Duke Health.